A Finer Point On Today’s Hearing

Posted in Road Issues, Commentary, Uncategorized at 12:06 pm by wcnews

As I sit and listen to this hearing one point needs to be made in this discussion. The toll road schemes are a direct result of the defunding of our states transportation system. Whether it’s a coincidence or it was a planned this way - drowning it in the bathtub - who knows.

For the last 30 years or so, since the “Reagan Revolution”, it’s been blasphemy to say you were for a tax increase, no matter how justifiable the cause. Now the GOP bears much of the blame for this but so do the people who voted them into office. Coincidentally, and this is where I’ll get into trouble, some of the same people who’s property is in the way of this project are responsible for voting these people into office. By voting for them they validated this NO TAX policy and bear some of the responsibility for this.

TxDOT is lacking money because the gas tax hasn’t been raised in 10 years. While raising the gas tax would hurt, it is much, much cheaper than these toll roads. Toll roads run by the state or another public entity would also be much, much cheaper than these toll roads. To stop these toll roads and the TTC we need to raise the gas tax and that means all those people that have been anti-tax have to change when it comes to the gas tax.

More From The Hearing

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 11:12 am by wcnews

Ben Wear is posting on the hearing at the AAS. In one post he uses one of the his familiar refrains:

Committee chairman Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, has filed several bills this session that would roll back the authority of the Texas Department of Transportation to build toll roads and put them in the hands of private companies.


Carona has filed a bill that would increase the state gas tax by tying it to the increase in road construction costs.But the Senate cannot initiate tax increase legislation. Carona would have to amend a House bill instead, and there is a candidate. That bill is more modest, however, allowing the gas tax to increase only with the consumer price index.

Will either pass, or be signed by Gov. Rick Perry? The odds remain low on that.

Mr. Wear always points to the fact that it will be next to impossible for anything to pass or, much less, be signed by the governor. While the ultimate goal is to stop the TTC, it’s certainly realistic to realize that it probably will not be stopped this session. But what’s most important is to get everyone on the record. But the beauty of having these bills and having them in the process is that it will show the public - who is paying very close attention now - who will not allow their will to be done - the TTC to be stopped. If these bills do not come forward in either or both chambers it will be because the leadership of those chambers or committee votes or floor votes will not allows it. Those votes will show who did not allow these to move forward. And one thing even Ben Wear can’t deny is that those opposed to the TTC have serious passion and are watching closely. Those political moves will have consequences and this time, as this hearing is showing, everyone will be very aware of what they are voting for or against.

In 2008 they will all be held to account for their votes. If these schemes are allowed to proceed it won’t be because of Democrats. It will be because the Republicans, in conjunctions with corporations, will not allow them to be stopped. And as said before, if these deals are allowed to proceed, this will mark the beginning of the end of Republican dominance of politics in Texas. And that Mr. Wear is what these hearings and this legislative session will show.

Transportation Hearing Today

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State at 9:07 am by wcnews

You can watch it live here.

Pat Driscoll has some of the most eye-opening nuggets from recent Auditor’s report at Move It!

From watching the beginning of this hearing it’s become clear that to end the TTC and stop toll roads the public has become informed and will be more than willing to allow an increase in the gas tax to allow tolls and the TTC to go away. I guess it’s possible to say that that may be the best thing to come out of the TTC plan, an engagded public on transportation policy. It also goes to show what people will do when their most treasured resources are threatened. That’s not meant in a threatening way it’s just to say that many in this government thought they could just sneak this through and they were, to my great delight, mistaken.

Two more things:

I hope Rep. Mike Krusee is watching and no elected official, when this hearing is over, will be able to say they no longer understand what’s the TTC is all about.


Krusee v. Ogden

Posted in SD 5, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Williamson County at 1:28 pm by wcnews

An updated AAS article on Sen. Ogden’s statements on TxDOT and tolls has some rebuttal comments from last term Krusee:

Perry’s office and state Rep. Mike Krusee, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, defended the state’s toll road policy.

“The Legislature, including Sen. Ogden, had denied our cities adequate funding for transportation for years,” said Krusee, R-Williamson County. “If we now remove the only effective tool, it’s our cities and our citizens, not TxDOT, who will be harmed, with more congestion, more pollution and less economic opportunity.”

He said that to abandon the state policy would return Texas to the days of 20-year highway projects.

Krusee’s legislative district includes part of Williamson County, which is in Ogden’s Senate district.

Krusee noted that toll roads Texas 130, Texas 45 and the Loop 1 extension have been built since the 2003 bill that he and Ogden co-sponsored.

“It’s ironic that, after the senator’s district benefited with literally billions of dollars of projects, he would prevent other cities from benefiting, too,” Krusee said.

I’ll leave the rebuttal to McBlogger who does much better than I could:

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A Rudderless Session So Far

Posted in 80th Legislature, Commentary, Around The State at 11:03 am by wcnews

After reading these three articles - Budget writers waiting for Perry, Perry’s struggles stem from inability to build coalitions, and Legislative session lacking defining focus - this legislative session, at this point and time, is in desperate need of leadership. Uh oh. Especially when you read comments like this about Gov. Perry’s $100 million for border security:

Key House budget writers say Gov. Rick Perry hasn’t given them a blueprint for spending his highly touted $100 million proposal for new border security funds or even formally requested money for the agencies that would do the work.


“I’m really worried that the governor’s staff may have dropped the ball for him,” said Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham. “I’m trying to find out who dropped the ball,where is the money supposed to be placed and is there really a plan? I don’t want to just say, ‘Here’s $100 million, go spend it.’ “

Rep. Kolkhorst is certainly being very accommodating of the governor by blaming his staff. There’s more:

“His budget has no standing in law. Only ours does,” said Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, Appropriations chairman. “I think all of us know we’ve got a border security problem. We just want to know where the money’s going. So it’s reasonable for us to require him to tell us what you’re going to do with the money.”

He said Perry’s office had made no formal request to the panel for the $100 million.

“Maybe it just was an ad. A campaign ad,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, of Perry’s border-security proposal.

Kolkhorst said, “I am confident that the governor did not run on an issue and (then) is not going to fulfill it. I’m confident that this governor has said publicly he needed $100 million for border security, and I am confident that that was not rhetoric.”


Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio, said budget writers may have to re-examine the DPS portion of the state budget proposal they’re crafting to accommodate Perry’s detailed proposal when it arrives.

“I think something slipped through the cracks. I think it was the governor’s intention to ask for $100 million for border security. … We’re going to try to put it back together,” she said. “It’s not too late.”

I hear you talking Rep. Kolkhorst but Perry’s actions sure look like border security was an election year ploy.

It definitely seems that Gov. Perry, trying to use his 39% showing in last year’s election as a mandate, to executive-order his way into relevance, is not working:

All this [his recent political failures] follows one of Mr. Perry’s most successful political years. His school finance and tax overhaul package was adopted as law. And he was easily re-elected in a five-way race for governor, though he only got 39 percent of the vote.

The political climate has changed for Mr. Perry, and it all appears to stem from his aggressiveness.

And Harvey Kronberg wraps it up this way:

It is still relatively early in the session, but the unmistakable feeling is that the leaders are all, to some degree, lame ducks and no longer inspire the fear that is a key component to legislative leadership.

After all, most legislators got more votes in their districts than did Perry in the last election. Craddick could not have been re-elected speaker without the aid of a dozen House Democrats who are now all looking over the shoulder at future primary challengers. A few more losses of his team in the next election and there may be a vacancy in the speakers office. And Dewhurst needs to take care of his senators if he expects to count on their loyalty in a gubernatorial face-off with Kay Bailey Hutchison.

For the last four years, the Legislature has been dominated from the top down. We are finally seeing some pushback — that’s a novel, but healthy sign.

Lame-duck leadership and a rudderless session. That’s the consensus so far.

Why Is The Houston Chronicle Doing This?

Posted in Commentary, Around The Nation at 8:57 am by wcnews

Why are they printing an article, Critics cite Gore’s huge electricity bill, about a BS story on Al Gore? It’s by a very “wing-nutty” fringe right-wing think-tank and the story has already been debunked. He’s won an Oscar, may win a Nobel Peace Prize and has alerted many to the threat of global warming. Are there any oil and gas corporations in Houston? The HChron does at least, sorta, offer Gore’s side of the story but never mentions that the whole thing is BS. But is this news? A crack-pot think tank taking a shot at the former VP. That liberal media is at it again.


The More Sunlight That Shines On The TTC…

Posted in 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State, Williamson County at 11:36 pm by wcnews

…the uglier it gets. Paul Burka has an excellent post on the House Appropriations Committee taking on Ric Williamson today, House Appropriations vs. TxDOT. Rep. Dan Gattis was very active and critical of Williamson. Ogden and Gattis trashing last term Krusee’s albatross in the same day, times are changing. And this excerpt shows that all our hard work has been paying off:

Member after member spoke of how he or she was getting beaten up back home because of the Corridor.

I really believe that many Republicans are starting to realize that unless they do something about the TTC this could be the turning point in their political dominance in this state and they’re worried.

Williamson County DA John Bradley & The Destruction Of DNA Evidence

Posted in Criminal Justice, Around The State, Williamson County at 11:19 pm by wcnews

There’s quite a discussion going on over at Grits for Breakfast and the TDCAA forum on the topic of destruction of DNA evidence. Here are the two posts from Grits - Destruction of DNA evidence thwarts justice and DAs dislike criticisms of DNA destruction practices. On the TDCAA discussion forum a discussion topic was started about the destruction of DNA evidence (JB is WC DA John Bradlley) as a bargaining chip in plea bargains. Once these attorney’s statements were popularized at Grits the DA’s felt that their statements being put out in the blogosphere was somehow an infringement on their First Amendment rights. Funny how their own words being used against them can be construed as infringing on their First Amendment rights.

These statements are not reporduced to infringe on thier First Amendment rights but to further the discussion. And just like the reaction to bloggers by the MSM, the reaction of these DA’s to bloggers and citizens joining the discussion and criticism of thier statements is eerily similar. It’s very informative to find out how DA’s react when their statements are reproduced, and also to see how they strategize. (I would recommend anyone interested in how DA’s work to keep up with this forum, it’s very interesting.)
The destruction of DNA evidence seems like an attempt to make sure their mistakes, in the form of wrongful convictions, don’t come back to haunt them, no matter what the truth is. And for this blogger it was very informative. I didn’t even know it was possible, or legal, to use the destruction of evidence as leverage in a plea bargain. It raises the hair on the back of my neck whenever the words destruction of evidence are used.

Excerpts from the two Grits posts are below the fold.

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Sen. Ogden Says He Will Take On Tolls, TxDOT

Posted in SD 5, 80th Legislature, Road Issues, Around The State, Williamson County at 11:40 am by wcnews

From the AAS we get this, Finance chairman warns of political force against reform. It’s more than just TxDOT it’s the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Southern University.

Fearing that state officials lack the collective will to act, the Senate Finance Committee chairman said this morning that three state agencies must be reined in despite the embarrassment it may cause.

Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, cited the Texas Department of Transportation, the Texas Youth Commission and Texas Southern University as severe problems that he fear will be swept under the Capitol rug.

“Two of them are broken,” he said. “And one is out of control.”

v In an interview with the American-Statesman, Ogden warned that political forces were trying to keep lawmakers from dealing with the issues to avoid embarrassing the Legislature and Go. Rick Perry.

I don’t know much other than the basics about the problems at the TYC and TSU. But here’s what Sen. Ogden had to say about TxDOT and tolls:

The powerful senator said the transportation department has “too many tools in their arsenal” to construct highways and the Legislature should take some of them back.

Ogden said he is concerned about the department’s plans to allow private contractors, for a large upfront fee, to build roads and charge tolls — perhaps forever. He said the department has as many as 21 projects under consideration.

“Do we really want to be turning over state highways to private contractors?” Ogden said.

The irony is that Ogden was the Senate author of the bill that in 2003 expanded the commission’s powers to construct roads.

“I’m trying to correct the sins of the past,” Ogden said.

He is considering legislation that would force the tolls to go away once a highway is paid for. He said he is concerned with plans to use toll revenue, long after a highway is paid for, to build more roads.

He said the Legislature is hearing from constituents who want the agency’s powers curbed.

“Every (legislative) member is paying a political price for what they are doing,” Ogden said. “TxDOT needs to be more sensitive and accountable to the Legislature.”

Sen. Ogden is repenting, and it appears has come more to Sen. Carona’s way of thinking on the TTC and tolls and is moving away from last term Krusee’s way of thinking. This is good news and a good first step. I’d like to see stronger legislative rhetoric than, “He’s considering legislation..” But this is progress and he deserves credit for that. Give Sen. Ogden a call or send him an email letting him know you appreciate this effort.


Posted in Road Issues, Commentary at 10:00 am by wcnews

Traffic was A LOT heavier today on my non-toll route to work than it has been since the toll roads opened. I’m not sure if it was the fog or the fact that T(a)xTag statements went out yesterday. That’s A LOT of money even at half-price.

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